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DEA agent secretly paid Amtrak employee $854K for passenger data

DEA under review for policy for paying excessive amounts of money for Amtrak informant
DEA under review for policy for paying excessive amounts of money for Amtrak informant

Reports are circulating today that since 1995 and almost a million dollars later a Drug Enforcement Administration agent had been paying an Amtrak secretary for passenger information.The DEA agent sidestepped the agencies direct partnership with Amtrak for collecting passenger data by working privately with the employee. It’s estimated the employee made about $42,000 annually after making some type of private informant deal. The Associated Press reported that Amtrak decided to let the employee retire rather than seek penalties, although the secretary never received prior approval from management.

Amtrak’s Inspector General, Tom Howard, told reporters that Amtrak has had a long working relationship with the DEA, and they had free access to reservation data. Furthermore Howard did not say why the secret deal was not uncovered sooner, and addressed updating policy changes to help management better direct employee behaviors.

No public comments have been made by the DEA.

Amtrak’s website describes how they collect, store, and may use passenger information under their privacy policy, section 4, Reservation of Rights. Amtrak states they may “disclose personal information” when they suspect illegal or safety issues that place Amtrak or passengers at risk. The company describes how they ensure passengers personal information is safe, but “cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to and you do so at your own risk. Once we receive your transmission, we make our best effort to ensure its security on our systems,” yet Amtrak does not define employee’s who breach the the system.

The Associated Press indicated that the National Railroad Corp., is the official name of Amtrak, and collects billions of taxpayer monies under federal subsidies, which automatically makes them subject to U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Now the $854,460 expense is coming under fire as the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking for more information on the report because they believe the money spent was excessive. Apparently, (Rep.) Sen. Chuck Grassley, said such actions can severely harm the DEA’s reputation.

Other people in the law enforcement field have said it’s normal throughout the industry to go rogue and hire informants, whether the practice is legal is the question. It appears no charges have been filed after the discovery that a DEA agent secretly paid an Amtrak employee to gather passenger information.

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